As Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the war’s end on Saturday, those who visited Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Tokyo observed a moment for the war dead and voiced a desire for lasting peace.
Built by the government in 1959, the cemetery is home to the remains of the unnamed war dead, including soldiers, civilian employees of the military and ordinary citizens.
Unlike Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial Shinto institution that also enshrines war dead just 10 minute’s walk away, the Chidorigafuchi cemetery has no religious nature.
Hiroko Kitamura, 43, and Koji Haraguchi, 45, visited the cemetery for the first time Saturday to pray for people killed in the war.
“I came here to promise that (Japanese people) would never allow a war to happen again,” Haraguchi said.
The couple chose to visit Chidorigafuchi instead of Yasukuni because Kitamura felt the Shinto shrine had been hijacked by politically motivated people, she said.
“I wanted to express my sincere condolences” toward war victims, especially after learning of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s war anniversary statement Friday, she said, adding that the statement was “not an apology in a real sense.”
“Although we are now free to say ‘no’ to war . . . we might not be able to express opposition once a war breaks out,” Kitamura said.
“I’m greatly worried whether or not Japan will still be able to issue a statement (to promise to remain peaceful) 10 years later,” she added.
A 66-year-old man from Asaka, Saitama Prefecture, who asked not to be named, said he regrets that high-ranking government officials continue to show irresponsible reactions over issues related with Japan’s wartime history.
“It’s ridiculous no one is willing to take responsibility,” he said, adding that Japan was completely wrong to have started the war for whatever reasons.
An 82-year-old war survivor, Masako Nakamura, from Kawasaki, whose father was killed during the war, said it was her first visit to Chidorigafuchi on Aug. 15, although she visited the site at least twice a year to mourn the death of her father.
Asked what she wanted to pass to future generations, she simply answered, “peace.”
“That is my ultimate hope,” she said.
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